Circuit Court Frees Doctors to Ask About Gun Ownership Again

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that restrictions on Florida doctors talking to patients about gun safety were a violation of the doctors’ First Amendment’s right to free speech.

The court said a patient who doesn’t want to be questioned about gun ownership can easily find another doctor.

U.S. Law Shield of Florida Independent Program Attorney David S. Katz said, “Most people will likely recall the case by its nickname, ‘Docs versus Glocks.’ As far as I know, it was the only one of its kind in the nation. Many here in Florida wanted the law because they said doctors were pushing an anti-Second Amendment agenda.”

Katz said the ruling did determine that some parts of the law could remain on the books, such as provisions allowing patients to decline to answer questions about guns and prohibiting health insurance companies from denying coverage or increasing premiums for people who lawfully own guns.

In one of two majority opinions, Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan wrote, “The Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms does not preclude questions about, commentary on, or criticism for the exercise of that right. There is no actual conflict between the First Amendment rights of doctors and medical professionals and the Second Amendment rights of patients.”

“There was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patients’ Second Amendment rights,” Jordan wrote for the court.

“The promise of free speech is that even when one holds an unpopular point of view, the state cannot stifle it,” Circuit Judge William Pryor wrote in a separate concurring opinion. “The price Americans pay for this freedom is that the rule remains unchanged regardless of who is in the majority.”

Doctors who violated the law could have faced professional discipline, a fine, or possibly loss of their medical licenses, Katz said.

“There is nothing in the record suggesting that patients who are bothered or offended by such questions are The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that restrictions on Florida doctors talking to patients about gun safety were a violation of the doctors’ First Amendment’s right to free speech.

The court said a patient who doesn’t want to be questioned about gun ownership can easily find another doctor.

U.S. Law Shield of Florida Independent Program Attorney David S. Katz said, “Most people will likely recall the case by its nickname, ‘Docs versus Glocks.’ As far as I know, it was the only one of its kind in the nation. Many here in Florida wanted the law because they said doctors were pushing an anti-Second Amendment agenda.”

Katz said the ruling did determine that some parts of the law could remain on the books, such as provisions allowing patients to decline to answer questions about guns and prohibiting health insurance companies from denying coverage or increasing premiums for people who lawfully own guns.

In one of two majority opinions, Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan wrote, “The Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms does not preclude questions about, commentary on, or criticism for the exercise of that right. There is no actual conflict between the First Amendment rights of doctors and medical professionals and the Second Amendment rights of patients.”

“There was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patients’ Second Amendment rights,” Jordan wrote for the court.

“The promise of free speech is that even when one holds an unpopular point of view, the state cannot stifle it,” Circuit Judge William Pryor wrote in a separate concurring opinion. “The price Americans pay for this freedom is that the rule remains unchanged regardless of who is in the majority.”

Doctors who violated the law could have faced professional discipline, a fine, or possibly loss of their medical licenses, Katz said.

“There is nothing in the record suggesting that patients who are bothered or offended by such questions are psychologically unable to choose another medical provider, just as they are permitted to do if their doctor asks too many questions about private matters like sexual activity, alcohol consumption, or drug use,” the court said in its ruling.

The case will return to U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke in Miami for a ruling that follows the 11th Circuit’s direction. The case could, however, also be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  — Texas & U.S. Law Shield Staff

 

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